In Hungary, whether you’re at the market, at the train station, on the beach or just walking down a commercial street, sooner or later you will smell the bewitching greasy invitation of the lángos, the ubiquitous Hungarian deep-fried flat bread. You might even encounter this fat-soaked snack in neighboring countries like Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Serbia, or Romania.
Wikipedia reveals some interesting facts about the etymology of the word:
The name comes from láng, the Hungarian word for flame.[…] [The] ancestor of flat breads was the panis focacius attributed to the Romans (of which derives also the Italian flat breads called focaccia). In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked in the ashes of the fireplace (cf. Latin focus meaning “fireplace”). However, the modern lángos, despite its name, is not prepared near an open flame but rather by deep-fat frying, and among Hungarian foods it is instead the pogácsa which preserves the connection, both etymological and culinary, to the ancient panis focacius.
There’s still a gap in the story, though, since the Romans and the Magyars never actually found themselves in the same place at the same time. The Hungarian tribes lived around the Ural Mountains until the 8th century, while the Roman Empire had disintegrated in the 5th century and hadn’t expanded much farther East than the shores of the Black Sea. The link may just be the Magyars’ invasion of former Roman Pannonia (modern-day Hungary), where some Roman customs and cuisine must have lingered.
Anyway, let’s get back to the lángos. It’s usually eaten as a snack. The toppings of choice are grated cheese and sour cream, but there are many variations. Ham, sausage, cabbage, mushrooms, quark, and butter work great, as well, and you can even make a stuffed version with some of these ingredients.
However, no matter how you prepare it, don’t expect an epiphany when tasting your first lángos: it’s just fried dough. (Of course, my posting such a simple recipe has ulterior motives that shall be revealed soon…)
For those of you who would prefer a lighter option, I’m also giving a recipe for the original baked lángos. Though totally different from the fried version, it’s a pretty good bread. Feel free to top it with garnishes, or use it to make sandwiches!
Yields about 6 servings
6 oz peeled Yukon gold potato
1 packet (0.25 oz) active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
10.5 oz milk, lukewarm
14 oz flour
1/2 tsp salt
1.8 oz butter, melted
- Place the potato in a pot of water, and cook over medium heat until very soft. Mash the potato, and measure 5.3 oz.
- Dilute the yeast and sugar in about 1/3 of the milk, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Sift the flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, then mix in the salt. Mix in the yeast mixture and the rest of the milk on low speed. Add the butter and the mashed potatoes, beat for another minute, then cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for about 1 hour.
canola oil (for deep-frying)
- Divide the dough into 6 parts. Using a rolling pin, roll each lángos into a 5″ x 7″ oval, about 3/8″ thick. If you want the bread to have an airy crumb instead of just tasting like an oily mess, it’s important to aim for an even thickness (no thin spots).
- Heat the oil to 375 F in a deep-fryer. Here again, make sure to really wait until the oil is hot enough to limit the amount of fat absorbed by the bread.
- Deep-fry each lángos until golden brown on both sides, flipping it only once if possible.
- Drain on paper towels, add toppings, and serve immediately.
Yields 6 servings
about 2 tbsp olive oil
- Divide the dough into 6 parts. Using your hands, flatten each lángos into a 4.5″ x 8″ oval (or any shape you fancy, as long as you keep the same approximate size). Transfer to baking sheets, c
over with plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Bake the lángos in a 450 F oven for 5 minutes, Brush the tops with olive oil, then bake for another 5-7 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove from the heat, transfer to a cooling rack, and let cool.